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Date: 30 Jan 2011 02:09:00
Title: The creatures of the deep

18:04.054N 63:05.332W, Marigot Bay, St Martin, Saturday night

We had a pretty rolly and noisy night so I woke up this morning feeling a bit the worse for wear. Only one cure for that - swimming. Andrea and I had a quick cup of tea and then got in off the back of Saxon Blue. The water was so clear that I had a disorientating moment when I dived in. When the bubbles cleared, I was afraid I was going to fall onto the sand below me as there didn't appear to be anything holding me up. As I looked, there was a lovely ray, right below where Andrea and I were swimming. I shouted to her and pointed and we watched it swim along and I dived down to swim with it. That was a great start to the day as Andrea has wanted to see one for ages.

We swam over to the old wall and along it until we got to the place where a sunken pier sticks out. It's always swarming with fish so we watched them and then I spotted Mr Turtle, hiding in among the rocks. Again, I shouted to Andrea and pointed. After a few moments, she saw him as well. It's not easy as they're very well camouflaged and their outline is broken up by all the patterns on their skin and shell. We watched him for ages and then I dived down and gave him a gentle poke so he swam away, followed by Andrea. She'd now seen two of her wish list creatures and we hadn't even had our breakfast yet. We saw another ray on the way back to Saxon Blue so Andrea had plenty to tell Kali when she returned from checking us out of Statia.

After a bit of breakfast, we got the anchors up and headed out, threading our way through the tankers at anchor (old VHF joke - I am a tanker at anchor) and past the tugs which service them. They've got loads of kit on Statia and Kali was getting very excited by it all, especially the ocean-going tugs. We passed one empty tanker that was over 1000 feet long and almost 200 wide. It didn't look real, just floating there. They also have a huge buoy that the tankers can attach to and unload from there and we gave that a wide berth as I couldn't tell what lines were joined onto it.

Once past that little lot, we set a course for the western tip of St Martin. The wind was pretty good - about 15 knots from just behind the starboard beam so we were able to sail nearly all the way until if fell light as we closed St Martin. By then, though, we'd had more excitement. Kali spotted a whale's blow off to starboard so we altered course a bit and got to within about 50 yards of a Sperm Whale. Our first one of the trip. We even got to see the top of his enormous square head in the swell so the identification was easy. We were hoping to see some down in Dominica but this was an unexpected bonus. To cap it all, we were briefly joined by three dolphins a while later.

The approach to Marigot Bay took a while so we were hot and ready for a rest when we arrived. I wanted to find an anchoring spot that's safe enough to leave Saxon Blue with just Kali onboard for a few days while Andrea and I visit Saba. On our last visit, I thought that most boats anchored too soon on their approach and that there was space all the way in so we pottered in through the other anchored boats until we found a great spot sheltered behind the marina breakwater. Kali went off to clear us into St Martin (again) while Andrea and I went snorkelling (again).

We've only got about 1 meter below the keel so I didn't bother with fins and just swam along looking at our anchor chain until it disappeared. I dived down and couldn't see the anchor so I pulled myself along the chain until I got to the shank, well below the level of the sand. That's properly dug in, then. As I got back to Saxon Blue, Andrea said she'd seen a starfish nearby so I went and found that. Feeling a bit brave, I dived down and picked it up. The look of amazement on her face when I handed it to her was a picture. We got a big bucket out so we could watch him in the water. He was a real big one - about a foot across and covered in spines on his top. When I picked him up, he felt as hard as a crab shell but, as we watched him in the bucket, he could articulate all his legs to give his tiny tube feet the angle they needed to move him around. Kali had a look as well and then we returned him to his home. I expect he's well used to spending half an hour per day in visitor's buckets.

We were all starving by now so took the tender to the Fort Louis marina and then walked over the other marina for a great dinner in our favourite French restaurant. We're back onboard now, it's about 9pm so time for an episode of Battlestar before heading off to bed. In the end, coming back to St Martin via Statia has been a good decision. I was worried that we'd find it frustrating but, with all the wildlife, it's been a day to remember, especially for Andrea.

Harvey

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